Asymetrix pitches sea-faring CBT solution to Navy

A symetrix Corp. recently made its third overture this year to capture a larger portion of the Defense Department computer-based training market by demonstrating that the company's CBT products can be used in real time by even the most remote of military users: sailors aboard ships at sea. The recent demo which used a satellite Internet connection to allow Navy personnel to monitor the results of a shipboard CBT exercise followed a busy summer for the Bellevue Wash.-based company. In June Asymetrix acquired AimTech Corp. the only multimedia tool company with Unix-based CBT products and therefore a healthy base of military users. Following that was an Asymetrix/Raytheon E-Systems alliance which has Asymetrix playing a key role in modernizing a series of Navy training courses.

All three moves are aimed at tackling the DOD market which Asymetrix contends is one of the largest sectors for training technology said Jim Billmaier company president and chief executive officer.

"Training is extremely important to DOD " he said citing embedded applications such as multimedia training manuals as one of the biggest areas of market growth. "I heard a statistic once that said over an eight-year period each piece of equipment will be either updated or replaced. Each time that happens new information has to be imparted to soldiers. The military needs to feel confident that that knowledge has been imparted."

Monitoring training conducted at sea is the ultimate test of that confidence according to Asymetrix. "In math you test for zero and you test for infinity. This was a test of infinity " said Billmaier a former mathematician.

Three-Way Setup

Asymetrix used a satellite connection to the Internet to form a triangle between a Navy cruiser an Asymetrix server at company headquarters and the AEGIS training facility in Dahlgren Va. Focused on a training exercise completed by a sailor on board the USS Princeton a cruiser adrift in the Pacific Ocean the connection allowed Asymetrix to rapidly store responses to test questions on the Asymetrix home page. The training exercise was developed using Asymetrix's ToolBook II authoring tool.

"The point is to monitor how a student has done and how the CBT itself performs " said Ray Duncan a senior software engineer at Advanced Acoustics Concepts Ronkonkoma N.Y. which serves as a multimedia integrator at the training center.

"If one student is not getting something you want to remediate that student. If all of the students are missing an aspect of the training there is something wrong with the course " he said.

"This was definitely the first test of its kind of an online training application " said John Synk Asymetrix's government sales manager.

Expensive satellite links are necessary to provide Internet access to shipboard computers so routine monitoring of shipboard training exercises is not likely to become widespread.

But the exercise may garner some additional DOD business for Asymetrix because many complex weaponry systems - the Tomahawk missile for example - now incorporate the CBT equivalent of a training manual for operations Asymetrix said.

-- Jones is a free-lance writer based in Falls Church Va.

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